The Mysterious and Odd-looking Tapir From Malaysia
by Patricia Cazares, age 12
Malayan tapirs make their homes in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. They are the largest of the four tapir species.
These large mammals are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. The black and white coloring on their body disguises them when they are active at dawn and dusk. A unique nose that is similar to an elephant’s trunk, serves as an effective extra limb. Tapirs use this snout to pull twigs and leaves closer to them. They have four toes on their front paws, but only three toes on the back paws. They weigh about 300 kilograms, and are about a meter tall.
Malayan tapirs can run very fast when they are being threatened by their main predator, the tiger. Another method they use to defend themselves is fighting back by biting.
Madison is home to its own Malayan tapir, Gabriel. Gabriel lives in the Henry Vilas Zoo and enjoys the shady, sandy areas. He prefers being indoors during winter and outdoors in the summer. Since he is nocturnal, Gabriel is happiest in the dimly lit part of exhibit.
All tapir species are considered endangered. They are hunted for their meat and their natural habitat is shrinking due to logging and farming.
[Sources: Zoo News; Kid Cyber]